Monday, November 28, 2011

21st Century Skills: An Overview

Madeline Hunter talked about "Three Bends and You're Out" when checking for understanding. The idea is that if you have three encounters of confusion to a given concept or question, then it is time to re-teach.

I've encountered 3 bends.

In the last week, I have had three teachers that I work with ask if our district is still promoting and expecting 21st Century Learning. Their point, and it is well taken, is that the subject was brought up a year ago and then really never spoken about since. They were told that students are learning in different ways now and that instruction needs to change with it, and then they were left without adequate professional development and support. This is totally understandable, and it ends now.

I will be utilizing this blog to assist the teachers I work with, but hopefully more will benefit as well. I will explore the "Cs" (the number of Cs keeps's kind of annoying) and discuss how each can be implemented without much disruption to the teacher.

So let's begin with an overview. I will be referencing two of my favorite resources for 21st Century Learning: The 21st Century Fluency Project and The Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The Four Cs

In the book 21st Century Skills: Learning For Life In Our Times, by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel, the authors point out the following critical learning and innovation skills:

Communication: Students should be able to convey information in a variety of forms, contexts, and environments and they should be able to listen in the same manners. They should be able to communicate for multiple purposes and know the appropriate mode for each. Hmm...I like how "listening" is involved in this idea of communication.

Collaboration: Students should be able to work productively and respectfully with diverse groups, and to show flexibility when trying to complete a common objective. They should do their fair share and respect the roles and work of others within their team.

Creativity & Innovation: Students should be able to use multiple techniques to come up with new ideas. They should be able to analyze and refine their ideas, and those of others, to get the best result.

Critical Thinking & Problem Solving: Students should be able to break the whole product into its parts and understand how they work together. They should be able to use different and appropriate reasoning skills in order to make decisions and judgements. Finally, students need to be able to find solutions to problems through quality questioning, time-tested solutions, and new ideas.

Wrapped around these 4 Cs is the goal of incorporating the students' digital lifestyles into our curriculum to help attain these skills. 

Notice that I said "help" not "solely."

21st Century Fluencies

The 21st Century Fluency Project addresses the same issues from a different point of view. They assert that it is not enough for a student to just be taught these skills, but they should be fluent in them in order to become a quality Digital Citizen. This idea of fluency is true for any discipline. If we are fluent in something, that means it has become part of us and it is intuitive.

The project states the following as critical 21st Century Fluencies:

Information Fluency

• Media Fluency

• Creativity Fluency

• Collaboration Fluency

• Solution Fluency

I did not provide ellaboration on the fluencies because they really do state many of the same ideas of The Four Cs. In future posts, however, we will look at them in more depth. Until then, please visit The Fluency Project at

So I leave you with a question before we dive into the individual components: How do you currently address these skills/fluencies within your curriculum and classroom activities?

Have a happy day!

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